Sunday, August 03, 2008

Pick a Pack of Pickled Packers

On Thursday of last week, NFL Commissioner, Roger Goodell, announced that he was delaying a decision on Green Bay quarterback Brett Favre's petition for reinstatement. Goodell's logic, it appeared, was to buy the Green Bay Packers to work out a deal with Favre, with the Packers pushing a $20 million package that would bump Favre upstairs and retire him as a Packer.

By giving Green Bay an extra day to work things out, Goodell ensured that the Packers did not have to deal with the circus that Favre would have created by reporting to camp last week. Clearly, the thought process for the Commissioner and the Packers' brain trust, such as it is, was that something could be done to avoid disrupting Aaron Rodgers' first camp as the Packers' presumptive starting quarterback.

Between Goodell's announcement and Sunday morning, either the Packers had a complete change of heart, or, realizing that no other team was yet willing to bet that they would have to pay anything to pry Favre away from the Packers, the Packers decided to stall, with the team announcing that it would allow Favre into to camp. Either way, Goodell was no longer willing to withhold Favre's reinstatement and, as of midnight central time Sunday, Favre is scheduled to appear at Packers' training camp on Monday.

That's not to suggest that things won't change again. Or that they probably won't change again. In fact, it is a near certainty that Green Bay's official position will again change, and in the very near future. But it's still hard to fathom the imbecility that has emanated from the Packers' organization over the Favre situation.

I've dedicated previous columns to laying out the Packers options at various stages of this ordeal, noting the Packers' best options and, as has consistently been the case, the Packers' far inferior decision. Today's decision--announcing that Favre is welcome back to the Packers to compete for the starting quarterback position--is the first move that the Packers' organization has made regarding Favre's attempt to come back that makes any sense for the Packers. And even this move is encumbered by Packer President Mark Murphy's adolescent public statement in which he stated that

Sixteen years after Brett Favre came to the Packers, he is returning for a 17th season. He has had a great career with our organization and although we built this year around the assumption that Brett meant what he said about retiring, Brett is coming back. We will welcome him back and turn this situation to our advantage.

Frankly, Brett's change of mind put us in a very difficult spot. We now will revise many actions and assumptions about our long-term future, all predicated on Brett's decision last March to retire. As a result of his decision, we invested considerably in a new and different future without Brett and we were obviously moving in that direction. That's why this wasn't easy. Having crossed the Rubicon once when Brett decided to retire, it's very difficult to reorient our plans and cross it again in the opposite direction -- but we'll put this to our advantage. Brett will be in camp tomorrow. Although there has been uncertainty regarding Brett's return, Ted Thompson and Coach McCarthy had previously discussed this and have had a plan in place. Coach McCarthy will talk to the team and the quarterbacks about the plan moving forward, and after he has done that we will share it publicly. No matter what, I look forward to another successful season for the Packers and our fans. This has been a tough situation, but the Packers will make the most of it.
Notwithstanding Murphy's statement, the team's announcement that it will allow Favre to compete at least sends the signal that the Packers might be willing to keep Favre in 2008 and that, to obtain him, another team will need to offer something of value. That's a marked change not only of the Packers' position of just three days ago, but also a change that offers a possible return, as opposed to what the Packers' previous stance offered.

The question, of course, is whether the latest Packers' move is simply a variant on the previous game that the organization has been playing--an attempt to buy some additional time to trade Favre. Murphy's statement, and the rarity of teams reversing themselves so suddenly on a firmly entrenched organizational decision into which most of the team's players already seem to have bought, suggests it is.

The Packers have twenty-four hours from the time of Goodell's announcement on Sunday morning either to add Favre to their roster or release him. The only difference between releasing Favre and adding him to the team's roster is that, if the team does the latter, it must find something for Favre to do in practice and it must do so without causing a disruption to practice and team chemistry. If the Packers are intent on allowing Favre to compete for the starting quarterback position, that proposition raises no difficulties--unless, of course, Favre loses the battle. If, however, the team is merely playing more games for minimal trade value, the Packers truly have taken this entire affair to depths few other NFL teams have ever gone for such little gain.

Given Murphy's public dressing down of Favre in what, ostensibly, was a public statement of conciliation, the Packers' firm position just three days ago in not wanting Favre back and even attempting to buy him out of coming back, and head coach Mike McCarthy's statement on Sunday that Favre would be relegated to individual drills in camp if and when he came to camp--hardly the precursor to a legitimate position battle--it seems as likely as ever that Favre will end up in the one place that he wants to play and where Green Bay does not want him to play in 2008, in Minnesota.

Up Next: Resolution?

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